Penn State Harrisburg

A-10: Online Courses


To deliver administratively approved “online courses” that facilitate instruction, which provide structured on-line experiences through course management software and other media for quality student learning at a distance.


Online courses use digital technologies to provide learning with multimedia sources; allow for multiple learning strategies; comply with University policies concerning access; include flexible scheduling; integrate off-campus, technology-based learning, student-faculty and student-student interaction; and broaden the concept of learning communities.


Defining an Online Course

An online course is delivered entirely online, with no required classroom sessions. Some courses may require one or more proctored exams. Students may be enrolled in courses offered by a single campus or in courses originated by multiple campuses. The schedule of courses designates online courses by indicating WEB in the Day/Time column, and indicates an eLearning Cooperative course with ELEARNING in the Section Info column. To inform students fully of the structure of the online course, a hot link from the course schedule would allow for students to see the syllabus.

Consultation and Approval

To begin, the proposer is strongly encouraged to take a self-assessment to determine if an online course would be compatible with the instructor’s style.

The proposer must formally consult with the Program Coordinator to inform that person of the interest in online course development. The proposer must complete the Request for Proposal for Online Course Development Form (.doc), gain the Program Coordinator’s signature, and submit the proposal to the School Director. The School Director will share all approved proposals with the Faculty Center to arrange for an initial consultation with the proposer and the development of an action plan. This would facilitate identifying the appropriate offering platform (World Campus, eLearning Cooperative, or summer-only for Penn State Harrisburg), and labeling the course properly in the course schedule (important information for both students and advisors); it would also allow for referral of the proposer to experts who will collaborate on the development of the online course, to ensure that the course meets its educational goals. It is important to strategically consider the development of online courses in a programmatic fashion rather than the development of an isolated online course.

Development of Online Courses

Faculty members are required to work with the Faculty Center’s instructional designers. The benefit of working with instructional designers is that they do course design work every day, are current with the latest instructional technologies, are familiar with best practices, and can connect faculty to University and external teaching andlearning resources. The length of time needed for a online course redesign varies based on the faculty member’s prior experience in online teaching, learning, and course design, the amount of time the faculty member can devote to the redesign effort, the amount of revision required, the number of online sessions to be designed, and the need for multimedia development. Generally, at least two full semesters of design and development time are needed to create a new online course.

All online course development completed in the Faculty Center follows the design standards set by the Penn State Quality Assurance Standards. The standards are intended to provide a measure of quality assurance for online courses to serve the e-learning needs of Penn State students. The program chairperson and school director will review the online course against the Quality Assurance Standards twice during its development: after the completion of Lesson One and the Detailed Course Outline, and after full course development is completed and before the course is delivered to students.

The faculty member is the subject matter expert who provides the course content. The faculty member teams with the instructional designers in the Faculty Center to schedule meetings, set course deliverable deadlines, and make pedagogical decisions related to the course. The instructional designer lends expertise in implementing the course in a professional and pedagogically sound manner.

Intellectual property rights

Faculty should read and understand the University’s policy regarding intellectual property rights by referring to the University’s Policy IP03, Courseware. Additionally, school directors must present faculty with the Courseware Copyright Agreement  to be completed for each course prior to the start of its online development.

Assessing online courses

Online courses should be available for peer review as any other class offered at the College. Once the online course is developed, either the Program Coordinator or School Director will preview the proposed course, as is currently done with fully online World Campus courses, to ensure that it meets School and College standards of quality. For this review, faculty peers or administrators should use the Peer Review Guide for Online Teaching at Penn State instrument.

Presented to College Faculty Senate: March 22, 2012

Approved by Academic Council: April 24, 2012

Request for Proposal for Online Course Development Form35.5 KB